Sydney J. Harris on How to Be a Musical Realist
“An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”Sydney J. Harris
Each time we sit down and pick up our instruments, we have the opportunity to craft our life of music. We either practice or we play.
If we work on specific exercises or techniques, we improve over time. And not only that, we also get the daily satisfaction of meaningful work. We overcome obstacles, solve problems, and meet challenges.
“Practice” is the act of working on specific things with the goal of improving them.
We also need “play”.
The goal of “play” is to enjoy the moment and the act of playing. We practice so that we can play. We play to give meaning and context to practice.
One purpose of practice is the daily satisfaction and focus. Another is to facilitate play.
We have limited practice minutes each day. How we use them will determine how satisfying that daily time feels. And it will make play more rewarding over time.
The best way to ensure a joyful life of music, is to practice – to work on specific things, with complete attention. And sometimes just play.
What specific things should we work on? This changes over time. It almost doesn’t matter – so long as we work to improve something specific. And that what we work on is appropriate for our current skill-level.
In any given day, the content is less important than the level of attention and the clarity of the task.
What we do today, and how we do it, will pave the path for tomorrow and beyond.